What are Multimodal Projects?

The biggest takeaway for me from the first chapter of “Writer/Designer” by Kristin L. Arola, Jennifer Sheppard and Cheryl E. Ball was that pretty much everything we take in, from advertisements to articles to essays to bad memes, is multimodal. What does multimodal mean, though? According to the authors, “multimodal describes how we combine multiple different ways of communicating in everyday life” (Arola et al. 1). There are five modes: visual, linguistic, aural, spatial and gestural. In reading how different works incorporate different modes, it is clear that they play off of each other to create an engaging and effective piece of medium for the viewer, reader, and/or listener.

In preparing for this assignment, I thought back to a movie trailer I recently watched. The movie is called A Dog’s Purpose, and though it sounds sappy and cliche (which it is), this does not deter me from seeing the movie upon it’s release. Why? Well, anyone who loves, owns, or merely tolerates dogs can see how this trailer uses all five modes to appeal to the desired audience. The trailer obviously uses the visual mode to give the viewer a small taste of what they can watch if they go to the theaters to see the movie. It showcases different dogs, which appeals to the viewer if they prefer a certain breed or dislike another. I personally rejoiced when I saw that the movie has multiple scenes of a corgi, as my family owns one. In my eyes, the visual mode was indeed effective. The linguistic mode is used throughout the trailer to give the movie it’s tagline: “The ones we rescue… Rescue us,” a thought that will stick with the viewer in a relatable way, because many people watching the trailer have probably owned a dog, perhaps even rescued it from a shelter. This tagline resonates with the viewer on an emotional and personal level, proving to be an effective use of the linguistic mode. The movie trailer also uses aural mode to convey feeling through music and narration. It uses an upbeat song to keep the viewer in a happy place even when a scene is just plain sad. Through aural mode, it is revealed that the dog is the narrator…yes, a talking dog movie. However, they picked a voice actor that didn’t go cartoonish with the voice, and so the dog comes across as an easygoing and funny character, how I’m sure all dog owners imagine their dogs must be. Spatial mode is used to organize the scenes into a chronological series of events, yet it also uses a video montage to capture scenes that don’t need narration behind them. Finally, gestural mode is used because we see the interactions between humans and their dogs, a key part of this movie and of drawing the viewer in through relatable scenarios, such as playing fetch or cuddling with a dog.

A second example of a multimodal text I found is this article from Timeline about the idea of hobbies in American society today and how they are turned into a “side hustle” or way to make money on the side of also having a full-time job. The article uses several modes to argue it’s point, that in current times we focus too much on how to capitalize on the things we love, while in the past, a hobby was used as an outlet for creativity, passion, and simply to get away from the daily grind. The article uses linguistic mode to portray most of it’s argument, as it is the most pertinent form of communication for this type of argument, in which the author explains her opinions with clear support and examples through anecdotes and statistics. The article also uses visual mode to show the reader pictures from an older time, when hobbies were not so shrouded in an ulterior motive, but purely done for enjoyment’s sake. The spatial mode is also used by the author to arrange her images in such a way that they help the piece flow. She doesn’t put all of the pictures at the top of the post, because it’s unlikely that the reader will scroll up and back down over and over during the reading process. She smartly intersperses them between large blocks of text, to give the reader a break from reading and also to give supplemental support of her argument.

These texts are surely different from each other, but both effectively use different modes to convey their messages. Movie trailers almost always utilize each of the five modes, because movie editors want to incorporate into the trailer all the ways that a movie can be experienced. In contrast with that, an argumentative article needn’t use every mode if it diminishes the effect that the article can have on the reader. Less is sometimes more.

I look forward to using different modes in this class to draw in my audience and help them see and understand what I passionately create and argue.

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